Interviews with Nikolo Kotzev

Interview from Strutter Magazine (

NIKOLO KOTZEV by Nicky Baldrian

Just released worldwide by SPV is the stunning rock opera "Nostradamus" put together by Brazen Abbot's Nikolo Kotzev who for the first time has bought the historic life of the influential French prophet Michael De Nostradamus to cd which features the cast of Alannah Myles, Joe Lynn Turner, Sass Jordan, Goran Edman, John Levin, Glenn Hughes, Jorn Lande, Doogie White and a 35 piece orchestra I caught up with Nikolo to talk about this wonderful presentation and here's what went down.......

This is your debut album as a solo artist, can you fill us in about what happened between the release of "Bad Religion" in 1998 and this new album? and is Brazen Abbot still a going concern?
My debut album as a solo artist was "Live and Learn " - the first Brazen Abbot album. All the following BA albums have been my solo albums. On the contrary, I wouldn't call "Nostradamus" a solo album, because it doesn't only have to do with my skills as a player and the whole concept leads the project into a different perspective. After releasing "Bad Religion" I almost immediately started working on "Nostradamus", even though at that time it was only an idea in my head. I will actually soon start writing songs for the next Brazen Abbot album. BA is very much alive and it will be an ongoing concern for me - it's just that I obviously didn't have the time for releasing a new album while I was working on "Nostradamus".

I believe that you originally released "Nostradamus" independently, what made you choose to go with SPV?
I never released "Nostradamus" independently. The company which financed the Nostradamus recording went bankrupt, but at that time I had almost completed the recordings. I continued working with the director of the company , who became my manager. At that time I had a ready product, but no record company. Obviously , I had to find the way to release "Nostradamus" properly, so I waited for the right solution and SPV seemed to be it. There was a possibility to release it myself, but obviously such a release would limit my perimeter of action.

How long did it actually take to record "Nostadamus"? It must have been a nightmare trying to round up all the artists?
The actual recording time was not long at all - if I summed up all the recording sessions, the time frame would escalate to only about 15 weeks. Negotiating, scheduling and financing was what took time.
I had to approach the artists or managers, agree on the time frames of recordings and all that - obviously it took time....

You produced the album yourself are you pleased with how the CD turned out?
I am very critical towards myself - I wouldn't have released Nostradamus if I wasn't happy with it.
It wasn't easy, though - having no one to share opinion with is tough, as I had to make sure I am making the right decisions at all times. On the other hand, the unusual format and concept demanded a completely different approach than anything else I'd ever worked on before.

I heard somewhere along the line that you can be extremley difficult to work with, is this true?
That is really surprising for me. I've always paid an utmost respect for everyone I'd worked with.
All the artists involved in my projects are perfect professionals and I have never had any arguments with them. The atmosphere in the studio has always been very friendly and creative, so I have no idea where you've heard that.

Can you take us through the album and tell us about the songs on it and how you pieced it together?
Once the idea about "Nostradamus" was born , I decided to collect as much information on Nostradamus as possible. This took me a couple of months of Internet research, reading few books and
watching a few films. There are thousands of Nostradamus sites out there, so collecting the correct information was not easy. The next task was building the foundation of the whole piece. I had many important factors to consider - who'll sing, in what tempo, in what key, with orchestra or not etc. etc. I was very careful in placing the singers throughout the entire work, since I wanted their appearances to be very well balanced to each others - both timewise and storywise.
Since Nostradamus was written for to be performed live, I had to make sure it is playable live. I made sure the orchestra had time to change their sheets, the band to prepare with new sounds/instruments, the singers have time to rest between songs etc. etc. I spent about two months on scoring everything for the orchestra. Some changes had to be made as the project began taking shape, I wrote a couple of additional numbers, had to change the storyline a little, etc. etc.

What does the story of "Nostradamus" mean to you?
It carries a message to humanity - Nostradamus spent his life helping people, but in many occasions
the people turned against him due to ignorance and under the influence of the church. Despite all this, Nostradamus never failed to follow the most important mission in his life - helping the ones in need. He was misunderstood by the most, which only proves the well known fact, that humanity is self-destructive by nature. Ironically, five centuries after his death he is recognized for his incredible talents and devotion.

It was an unusual choice to see the involvement of Alannah Myles and Sass Jordan and I have to say the song 'Try To Live Again' is one of the best songs I have ever heard Alannah sing. How did they get invovled in the project and do you think that you will work with Alannah again on a full rock release?
I needed two female singers for the story and Alannah has always fascinated me as one of the best female singers I ever heard. Obviously , I approached her through her manager and she agreed to participate. She is an incredible singer - I was stunned in the studio! Alannah recommended Sass Jordan for the role of Catherine de Medici, so I went to Canada and recorded Sass, which also turned out to be a very pleasant session. I don't know if I'll be doing anything with Alannah in the future, but I surely hope so. I have always been open for possibilities to work with other people, not necessarily only on my own projects.

What was it like working with the a 35 piece symphonic orchestra? Was this a dream fulfilled and do you have any future projects involving an orchestra?
I spent many school years working in a symphonic orchestra - in fact I have been the first violin in
the school orchestra. So, the atmosphere was nothing new to me. However, recording an orchestra properly was a whole different story. Already from the beginning there was no doubt that I will use a real orchestra, so I had to plan the recording as good as possible. We spent a week on the recording and it was one HARD week, since we had to make sure the technical side of things was working properly as well as rehearsing at the same time as we recorded. I hired a huge art gallery in Varna, locked it for visitors and we worked 12 -14 hours a day. I hope I will have the chance to make another orchestra project in the future, so, we'll see.

What is the concept behind BRAZEN ABBOT the band and what influences the band while writing the music?
Would like to underline once again, that Brazen Abbot is not a band - it is my solo effort. I have
always written the music, hired the performers and produced every single note. My influences have always been bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Queen, Pink Floyd. The main idea is to produce a high quality hard rock music, disregarding the contemporary trends on the market for rock music. I have always hoped for creating an own trademark. I always use at least three different singers, but try to keep a close circle of people I work with. The concept gives me the advantage of writing music the way I like it, without been affected by
record companies or current trends.

What feelings do you wish to express through your music?
I am a romantic person by nature and always try to recreate the feelings I had when listening to the aforementioned bands. Rock music played an important role in my teenage period and will never forget that.

What are the most important aspects of each individual member, what are the qualities you looked for which made them unique for this project?
When casting for "Nostradamus" I had to make sure that the individual profile of the singers will moreor less fit to their roles. On the other hand I had to make sure all the singers had the necessary range for singing their parts. All the chosen singers are incredibly well suited to their roles and I expected their personal artistic input to enrich the entire level of performance/emotion. I am extremely satisfied with the choice of singers - it all worked out exceptionally well. I knew most of the singers prior to recording and knew what to expect on the emotional side of things, so it was just to carry on...

Can you tell us some more about your lyrical approach on "Nostradamus"?
The lyrics were written by the singers under my guidance. Everyone who wrote lyrics received
a detailed instruction from me, so they knew what the song is about, what events are taking place, what has happened and what will happen after the song. I gave some tips for certain phrases and expressions, which were characteristic for the 15th century and made sure it all fitted together. I was afraid, that having few people write lyrics might result in stylistic problems, but later on I realized that everything was going well, so that concern dropped out. The lyrics are rich in quotes and genuine facts/expressions. Five of the songs deal with Nostradamus' predictions, so we had to make sure everything is historically correct and well put. The difficulties in these particular songs came from their nature - they tell a story, but still had to be emotional and dramatic. Göran Edman and Doogie White did an excellent job there. Obviously Joe Lynn Turner and Glenn Hughes did an admirable job too - it has all been collective effort at it's best.

I've heard that there has been film and theatre interest in this. Is this correct? Have you had any offers?
The primary goal for "Nostradamus" is playing it live on stage. I had an offer from an American production company, which wanted to buy the rights for "Nostradamus" world-wide and a film/live production would come as a result of an eventual agreement. We negotiated for a few months and had agreed on the most important points of the deal. However, it was taking too long time I the mutual feeling was, that we should carry on in different directions. I believe there is a huge potential in "Nostradamus" as a live show and once the record has been released I will start approaching different parties interested in financing it.

Obviously your inspired by literature, but I was wondering what forms of art beside music inspires you most and are there any other works of literature that you would like to put music to?
I love movies - it is my best way to relax an find inspiration. Good taste is the main
inspirational force for me - regardless of the art form that carries it. Inspiration comes sometimes
from the most unexpected sources - it is hard to predict.

How do you see the evolution of the metal world? There are currently epic / speed metal bands around every corner. Don't you think that the market becomes saturated and that it is difficult for the fans to make a choice to what to buy and what not?
I have always been a firm believer, that people who are hungry for real art always find it. It is true, that there is too much product on the market (some of it is even substandard), but then again - we all have the right to be creative. Some of us are less successful, some more. After all, the creator can't judge the value of his own work - he can only suggest it to the public. It is the public that decides how much it is worth.

As far as I know you never toured with Brazen Abbot. If and when the band get back together will there be any shows for either Brazen Abbot or even a one off London Westend show for "Nostradamus" perhaps?
I would love to take BA or "Nostradamus" on the road. While the thought seems easily achievable with BA, "Nostradamus" will demand a far larger budget , so it won't be equally easy. However, I would love to tour either of the projects, so only the future will show.

The artwork is dark and mysterious with a gloomy frail looking picture of "Nostradamus", did you give the artist a free hand or did you have an idea how you wanted the artwork to look like?
I gave a direction and he put it on paper. We adjusted it few times and finally got it right.

How do you predict the future of for yourself musically as this will be a tough album to follow?
Well, I will start writing for the next Brazen Abbot album soon and it will be in the old BA tradition - so
it is not directly comparable to "Nostradamus", I guess. "Nostradamus" will not affect the future of BA, simply because they are different projects and there is no reason to put a parallel between them.

Finally if you would like to add something then please go ahead?
I hope everyone out there will realize how much effort and devotion went into the making of "Nostradamus". I also hope the public will like it as much as I do and let's all hope we will see it on stage in the near future!!!

Yes, the amount of work that went into the album deserves an award of achievement. I predict that sometime soon we will see this massive production on stage, Nikolo has achieved a mighty project which is hard to describe in words, "Nostaradamus" is an adventurous project and is Nikolo's most mature and varied work to date, Please go and buy this album and make your own mind up on this wonderful project that will know doubt be recogonised by music lovers for years to come.